Do We Really Need to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day With Scott Johnson of Motivosity

On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Scott Johnson about Employee Appreciation Day, and whether or not this is a healthy holiday to celebrate. It’s more than just about appreciating your employees; sometimes disappointment is far worse than not celebrating at all.

Scott Johnson, founder of Motivosity, discusses the need to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day on the Use Case podcast with William Tincup. Motivosity is an employee experience software platform that focuses on delivering a better work and life experience to employees of companies of all sizes.

The company believes that employees should be recognized and appreciated multiple times per week, even daily. It also acknowledges the significance of Employee Appreciation Day. The con argument against celebrating such holidays is that recognition and appreciation should not be reserved for one day out of the year, but should be a daily thing.

Nevertheless, it provides a centralized opportunity for companies to show their employees they are appreciated and valued.

Listening Time: 20 minutes

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Scott Johnson
Founder & CEO Motivosity

Father of 5. Tech entrepreneur. Founder & Chairman of Workfront. Founder of Motivosity. Board member. Mentor. Tech Angel. BYU adjunct teaching entrepreneurial skills.

Scott believes that we spend too much time at work for it to not count at a deeper level than 'just a job'. His career has been devoted to making people's time at work count for something good.

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Do We Really Need to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day With Scott Johnson of Motivosity

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Scott on from Moos, and our topic a subject that we wanna talk to about is, do we really need to celebrate employee appreciation day? And so we’ll jump right into that in a second. Scott, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Moss?

Scott Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. So my name’s Scott Johnson. I’m the founder of Motivosity. [00:01:00] We’ve been in business for about 10 years. Ironically we were founded on employee appreciation Day, so I guess it’s Apropo here that we’re we’re in this space and talking about this, but yeah, Moos is an employee experience software platform, and what we do is focused on helping people be happier about being at work.

We really care that That our experience while we’re at work counts for something. The phrase that we would hate to hear is it’s just a job. We spend most of our waking hours doing what we do during the day. And our strong belief and passion is that it should be a meaningful part of your life and should count for something on the personal side as well as on the professional side.

And so the tools that we build help. Deliver a better work and life experience to to employees of companies of all sizes. So

William Tincup: let’s just start with a question. Do [00:02:00] we really need to celebrate employee appreciation day? Yeah,

Scott Johnson: that was a good and loaded question and I could make a good argument on both sides of that question.

So here’s my argument for why we should not. Celebrate employee appreciation day, and then I’ll make an argument for why we should, okay? The reason we should not is because we shouldn’t reserve that day as the one day that we appreciate our employees, right? In fact we think that employees should be recognized, appreciated for what they do, not once a year or once a month, but multiple times per week, even daily, and.

Obviously when companies think about recognition and appreciation, oftentimes their minds go toward these kind of big, grandiose, top-down programs. Whether it’s the MVP award at the company meeting, or a big kind of, top-down effort that they’ll do once or twice a year, such as.

Employee Appreciation Day or Christmas [00:03:00] or Thanksgiving or other kinds of programs that are very centrally managed and distributed from the benevolent overlords down to the little people. And we look at that and think That is where everybody’s mind is, right? But that’s not what makes an impact on people’s lives.

Like you could get a, you could get a trophy or an award or a big company appreciation on a Friday meeting, and guess what? Monday still happens. That’s right. The fall after the weekend, and it’s still back to business as usual. And if you don’t work in an environment where you feel connected and appreciated by the people that you’re surrounded with every day it’s gonna wear you down.

And conversely, if you do work in an environment where you feel recognized and appreciated by the people that you’re surrounded with every day. It builds you up and gives you more and more energy for the work that you do and creates a lot of engagement. And so what we seek to accomplish is.

To get [00:04:00] people in that type of environment where this is a daily thing and not a quarterly or an annual thing.

William Tincup: Let’s take the con or argument for just a second and I’m with the con argument. I’ll, I can do both so as well. But with the con argument it’s also the reason I don’t really celebrate a lot of the American Greetings, holiday holidays.

It’s because it’s like Valentine’s Day, we just passed it. I didn’t give my wife a Valentine’s card. We’ve been married 29 years. If she doesn’t know that I love her, like on the other 360 something days a year, then you know that one day that I’m not saving it up for that one day. So I do think that companies need to have, especially today, companies have to have a consistent and almost it’s omnipresent part of making sure that their employees know that they’re loved, that they’re heard, that they’re, that they care about them, that, they’re listening and all of that stuff.

So one day, it’s almost okay, if that’s the only day than [00:05:00] what you’re saying is the other days of the year that you don’t appreciate your employees, it’s almost, it’s got. Yeah it’s kinda just as you said in your argument, it’s okay one could look at it that way.

It’s okay, this is the day where we’re gonna celebrate our employees. Okay, let’s bring out the fried chicken and, pizza and everybody have a good time and we’re gonna celebrate the employees. And tomorrow you’re gonna go back to, slave labor. And and we won’t, and we won’t appreciate you or listening to you after that because hey, We had the appreciation day.

That was the, that was that day. We already had that. We’re done. Now I’m making fun of it. But I can see how companies could view it that way. Like we, we did this bit. We showed you, we appreciate you and we have a business to run. We gotta get back to the business. So I’m on the con side of the argument of why the, it’s ludicrous to have an employee appreciation day is that both sides of what we’re saying is okay if you are really gonna have an appreciation day, you should be employee [00:06:00] appreciation all days, every day.

Now what’s the four or what’s the pro of why we should have employee? And you can comment on anything I’ve said, by the way, for the, for why we should have employee appreciation day.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, Doing something for employee appreciation day does not make up for lack of doing something every, like throughout the year.

And great point. So it’s a you look at it like layers, like the, if the foundational layers that daily drum beat and you’ve got that in place, then that’s a great thing to build from. Employee appreciation day comes around and. Is it still nice to formally say, Hey, love y’all. This is a great place to be.

Love what you do here. Yeah. It’s impersonal, right? It’s not an individual thing, [00:07:00] but but if I come in on that day and get a note and I’ll be the one giving the note, it’s a, it’s an added bonus. It’s I know you guys love us like we do. We do all these things all the time anyway, but it’s, it still is just a nice little boost.

And same thing by the way, with Valentine’s Day and I can one up you for the first time in, I’ve been married for 28 years and this year I was in Hawaii and my wife was in Utah on Valentine’s Day and.

William Tincup: That is one up to me. That’s awesome.

Scott Johnson: She knows I care and Yeah. But yet it was also nice for me to send something.

I sent her favorite her favorite drink and some flowers on Valentine’s Day. And so if I didn’t, did she know that I love her? Yes. But if I did, it’s a nice, it’s an added bonus that just reinforces that and is just a little, something you can. A little hook you can hang something on and remember that yeah officially I do care.

William Tincup: And [00:08:00] it’s we should appreciate employees all the time. That should never, there, there shouldn’t be a moment where we’re not appreciating or everybody 360 degrees by way. That’s managers, that’s leadership. That’s every, we should appreciate each other at work, Uhhuh. Done. So like that should be our constant.

I do like the idea of having one day a year to then say, let’s take off, let’s do something different. Whether or not it’s take off physically and just have the day off, Hey, there’s nothing better than having appreciation day by. Here’s your appreciation day. Go to a museum, take a nap. Do you know, go walk your dog.

Do whatever you want or do something different. Like celebrate, people’s accomplishments. We do that obviously during the year and things like that, but take a day out and go, Hey, in case you missed it, over the last six months, these things have happened and we want to thank Bobby and Yolanda and Maurizio and it would be cool in that sense, like I’ve [00:09:00] had this argument or discussion with people around February, it’s Black History Month and it’s we should have Black History Month, something we should celebrate all the time. And the, and it’s, but it’s nice. I have to admit, it is nice to see on Netflix or programming wise that they put a kind of an over-emphasis, they over-index during this month and show you things that I wouldn’t.

For me, I wouldn’t see. So it is nice so I can, both sides of it. We’re both saying, or at least I’m saying, you should appreciate your employees all the stop all the time, full stop. But there is, there’s something you can do on that day that’s a, that’s a national, recognized day, appreciation day, or you make up your own day, whatever the bit is that you can do something special.


Scott Johnson: And let people know that it’s not just all about the dollars and productivity.

William Tincup: Because I, I think that’s sometimes, we’re we every, of course we’re running a business. We want people to be productive and I think by and large people wanna be productive.

[00:10:00] Employees wanna be productive. It’s in all of our best interests. But there’s the occasion where it’s okay to not talk about work. Or to talk about other things around work. Like just one things that I found fascinating about the pandemic is that there was so much empathy, yeah. And it’s why isn’t that always at work? Exactly.

Scott Johnson: There’s an interesting paradox here. I talk to a lot of business leaders and there is a, there’s a big. Subset of leaders who, when you talk about doing things for your employees, the first question that comes up is, what’s the ROI of this?

Yes. And what if you had a friend that every time Like that would never do anything for you unless there was something better in it for them. What kind of friend is that? Does anybody want a friend like that? And as employers, you need to force [00:11:00] yourself sometimes to not look at, Hey, I’ll do something for my employees as long as there’s something better in it for me.

That, that’s pretty see through and the the employees get it. And what you’re talking about is taking time is money. So taking time in the company, which is going to cost you money, To do something for no other reason than we are people and we need that. And it’s okay. And I guess if you really wanna get down to brass tax with it, there is an ROI in that because when your people like you, As a person, they’re more engaged, they’re more productive.

They solve problems better, they take better care of your customers. They do everything better. But if you only do things that have a, an ROI calculator attached to ’em, you’ll never get to that state where you can basically just let your hair down, say, yeah, we’re gonna take a day and just enjoy each other just because we enjoy each other.

William Tincup: Yeah it’s the [00:12:00] ROI thing. It’s, I understand you don’t want to get to a place where you’re spending money on things that that just don’t prove either valuable to the employees or to the company like you. We just don’t wanna waste money. That’s fair. And f r a CFO sitting somewhere, I would definitely say, you know what, that’s okay.

Build a business case cost benefit analysis, roi. That’s nice. But it’s not every, everywhere. And. A hundred years ago I was in marketing and I ran an ad agency, and I would get this question from a marketing perspective and I would tell ’em like, listen, I can build an roi. I can build an calculation on some things in marketing a demand generation campaign or an or something where I can actually show you dot math, but rebranding or redoing your message.

There is no ROI calculator for that. The redo, the reason you redo your message as a company is your sales team and maybe your support team has fallen out [00:13:00] of love with your current message, and they don’t, they just can’t carry it forth like you want ’em to. Now, that’s a reason to change, but Can I put a math?

Can I put calculus to that? No. So there’s certain things that you can and should, and there’s certain things that you just shouldn’t. And so I think that your advice to executives of applying that across to the employee experience. There, there are definitely things within the employee experience that Yeah.

Absolutely can do. There’s, we can put a calculator on this right now. Sure. Let’s look at retention. Let’s look at recruiting. Let’s look at training and retraining. You’re like, we can make a math out of this or equation out of this. But employee appreciation day and if the, in both ways that we’ve talked about it, you, there’s really, it isn’t math, it’s just good business.

Scott Johnson: Yeah. Taking care of people is good

William Tincup: business. So full stop. We just dropped the mic and walked off Sage What do you, what’s your advice right now with, when, with, prospects and customers [00:14:00] that maybe they’re employees, maybe they’re at a place they’re reaching out to you for a reason.

Maybe they know that they haven’t been great at appreciation, or maybe they just, maybe they’re having a churn problem and they’re having a trouble retaining people. Like where do they start with appreciation?

Scott Johnson: Yeah. There are a lot of HR leaders who see this, like they have they’re a little bit emotionally more attuned to their.

To their teams and their people, and a little bit more interested in people’s success from an emotional perspective. And that language oftentimes lands pretty flat with the CFO or the ceo, and they get beat up on, on budgets and Right. And it’s the easiest thing in the world is for a CFO to say, Hey, that’s not in the budget.

Talk to me next year. And HR. They being in the the hierarchy that they are [00:15:00] on the on the access to company funds oftentimes feels like they just have to turn around and say, oh, okay. Yeah, good idea. We’ll talk to you next year. And it’s, I, my advice would be from the HR side is be more assertive.

These are your people that we’re talking about here, right? And understand that there are people that are numbers driven inside the companies, and that doesn’t mean that they have all the right answers. And It is possible to put together a business case for doing things for people. But you also need to be comfortable with the idea that, hey, maybe this is a wait and see a thing.

And hey, if we’re gonna, we’re gonna go do something for our people. It might be that you, you see the magic after you take the leap of faith and it’s okay to be a little more. Little more vocal and a little more courageous, right? And having these [00:16:00] conversations with executives because hey, oftentimes they’ve turned the stewardship of culture over to you, right?

And you, live up to that charge and and. And demand. What is the right course of

William Tincup: action. I love that. And courageous is a great way of thinking about it. It’s listen, you’re the steward of culture, let’s say. If that’s what’s been placed on you, then be the best steward of culture that you can be.

And that means sometimes that’s just pure advocacy. And advocating for employees when they can’t and don’t advocate for themselves. Appreciation is one of those things. There’s many of those training for instance. I wanted to get your last question, but I want to get your take on the way that I’ve thought about appreciation being more highly personalized.

Like the way that you might wanna be appreciated, and let’s say we’re working right next to each other. And the way that I wanna be appreciated, I’ve always viewed that, and again, kill this by the way, may, destroy this idea. But I’ve always had it in my head that [00:17:00] I don’t want a cookie cutter idea of appreciation.

I wanna be appreciated at the time when I feel probably either the most vulnerable or the, at the moment when I need it the most in the way that I want to be appreciated. Now, first of all, how dumb is it? How dumb is that

Scott Johnson: idea? It’s not dumb at all. One thing, and this is an important concept it’s important to know that people are motivated in multiple different ways for some people.

Appreciation is motivating and beneficial because all it equates to is they get to see their name in lights, right? Hey I’m famous inside the company I got my name on something. For some people it’s the reward that’s associated with that. For some people, it’s the It’s the fact that somebody noticed what they’re doing.

So like those are three different motivations. And some people, they project their motivator [00:18:00] onto everybody. And they, so they’ll wanna say this is, we can’t we shouldn’t be doing public appreciations because I, it’s, it should be private. And it’s their motivation of, Hey, I wanna know that somebody saw me.

And that’s how that matters. That’s great. But that that maybe only works for 30% of the people. It’s important to embrace as much of as possible and be as open as possible on those motivators when it comes to recognition. So try not to be one size fits all, and then you’re right. What you said really gets to.

Our original question of employee appreciation day or not. Big team recognitions are nice, but they aren’t something like, Hey, William, I really love that you helped me with this problem that we worked on yesterday morning. You totally saved my day. Thanks so much. And put that out for your coworkers to see and have a couple of ’em comments say, yeah, man, he does that for me all the time.[00:19:00]

And that’s like super validating, but it’s, yet, it’s in the moment and very relevant to you as a person.

William Tincup: Yeah it’s interesting because as you were talking about, I was thinking about the motivators and one of the things for the audience, there’s, we’re not saying there’s a right or wrong.

There’s, and there’s no judgment for whatsoever coming from Scott or myself. People are just mo and I think that your motivations can’t change as as situations change. And As best you can to do the archeology and anthropology around what motivates your people. The more you know, I think the more you can meet ’em where they are at that particular time.

Yeah, I would totally agree. Brother, this has been awesome, Scott. Thank you so I know. I know you’re crazy busy, but this has just been wonderful. Thank you so much for what you do. But also thanks for coming on the podcast.

Scott Johnson: Hey, it was really fun. I’m glad we could chat today. It was a fun conversation and good question.

We gotta figure out something good for Employee Appreciation Day, which

William Tincup: Now the pressure is on. When is [00:20:00] employee appreciation day? Is it is it fixed or do companies have their own? It is

Scott Johnson: officially, it’s the first Friday of March.

William Tincup: Okay. That is that’s two weeks away.

Okay. Yes. All right. Get your thinking hats on people. Brother. Again, thanks again and thanks for the audience for listening. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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